Sunday, July 01, 2007

One afternoon with a shovel

Michael Yon reports from Iraq. "As we passed through the village, Captain Combs pointed out the nice houses, saying the people had been simple farmers with comfortable homes and lives. Until al Qaeda came." What follows is a photo essay of what happens, actually happens, when the "militants" gain power over a village and proceed to turn it into the holy 8th century, the Year Zero or whatever those with the most recent scheme to turn the world into a paradise on earth want to call it.

Later in the day, some of the soldiers from the unit I share a tent with, the C-52, told me that one of their Kit Carson scouts (comprised of some of our previous enemies who have turned on al Qaeda) had pointed out an al Qaeda who had cut off the heads of children. Soldiers from C-52 say that the Kit Carson scout freaked out and tried to hide when he spotted the man he identified as an al Qaeda operative. Just how (or if) the scout really knew the man had beheaded children was unknown to the soldiers of C-52, but they took the suspected Al Qaeda to the police, who knew the man. C-52 soldiers told me the Iraqi police were inflamed, and that one policeman in particular was crazed with intent to kill the man who they said had the blood of Iraqi children on his hands. According to the story told to me on 30 June, it took almost 45 minutes for the C-52 soldiers to calm down the policeman who had drawn his pistol to execute the al Qaeda man. That same policeman nearly lost his mind when an American soldier then gave the al Qaeda man a drink of cold water.

"Crazed with intent." Now there's a nice phrase, but one wonders. Who was crazy, the cop who wanted to shoot the al-Qaeda child beheading specialist; was it the "militant" himself? Was it the C-52 troopers who instinctively offered the prisoner the automatic courtesies of civilization or the whole damn world?

One thing's for sure. Digital cameras take better pictures of massacre victims being exhumed from shallow graves than those old black and white Speed Graphics ever did. Color conveys more information. But whether the information ever gets conveyed depends on how willing one is to admit that those pictures could one day be of your family or of you. When it finally comes home the game is being played, not for media points, but for keeps.


Blogger Nomenklatura said...

It's very apt that the US forces call their local auxiliaries and guides 'Kit Carson scouts'. This story could be right out of the American West in the 1860's.

The Iraqi policeman "crazed with intent to kill the man" recalls John Wayne's character in 'The Searchers' (1956), which "became generally regarded as not only the most highly regarded western of all time, but is regarded by many as one of the great movies of all time, period." (Wikipedia).

There is quite a lot of discussion in the Wikipedia article about which real life case the movie followed most closely. Perhaps the salient point is that there were many.

Militant Islamists are taking us back to confront our past - the one thing they can actually do is force us to go back with them in time, to a more brutal age. It's far from clear that when we get there we will prove to be equipped with better answers than our ancestors found.

7/01/2007 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

We have seen this type of enemy before. The name conjures up images of mass slaughter of cilivians. Nazis. They're back, with a different name this time around, but no different than their goose-stepping brethen. And just as before this is a fight to the death.

7/01/2007 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I look at those pictures and think to myself, everyone in Iraq has a gun ... EVERYone. Why didn't they fight back?

Everyone in Iraq has a cell phone. Why didn't they call their tribe for help?

I simply do not understand how people can allow this to be done to themselves.

You read about Lenin killing people, and Cambodia's killing fields, and Rwanda -- but those people were all unarmed and herdable.

If Al-Queda were to somehow swoop into a village in England, or a town in Kansas, or an outpost in Australia ... would *this* be the result?

7/01/2007 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...


"I simply do not understand how people can allow this to be done to themselves."

Take a look at Irene Nemirovsky's awesome novel describing life under the Occupation in France. She was there and did not survive (she died in Auschwitz). It's called 'Suite Francaise'.

7/01/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Nomenklatura - I'm in the middle of Gertrude Bell trying to build a new country called "Iraq" after WW1, so it'll be a while before I have time for WW2 France.

Could you summarize?

7/01/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...


'Suite Francaise' is in the form of two novellas (there were to have been five). The second, 'Dolce' describes life in a small French village under the Occupation where a contingent of French troops is garrisoned. Nemirovsky was essentially living the events she was writing about.

People tried to get by, as they do in real life. Sometimes they even tried to get along. But by August 1942 she had been arrested, deported and murdered, and her husband followed in November of the same year.

It's an extraordinary literary achievement, and was a sensation in France following its accidental rediscovery after 60 years, and publication in 2004.

She'll still be there when you get done with Ms. Bell.

7/01/2007 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodriver said...

I would imagine that they fear their entire, extended family being killed if they cooperate. Would you help the police if that was going to be the cost?

7/01/2007 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger twolaneflash said...

A transcript of sermons at the local mosque might shed some light on the source of this "mysterious" lack of cooperation from all those "moderate" muslims in the neighborhood. A significant amount of crazy will be found in the imam's call to islamic perfection.

I know I wouldn't place a call on my own cell phone to the Iraqi police, creating a permanent record on my phone bill of my collaboration. Enemy and friend are indistinguishable to the family on the street in Baghdad, so crazy would be calling the police.

Tribal loyalties. Perhaps the military needs to take lessons from some America's major cities' gang task forces. How deep does the paranoia and distrust go in these tribes? Playing both ends against the middle may seem like a pretty good survival strategy in present-day Iraq for a tribe trying to hold on for better days, when Americans and the terrorists are gone.

Secrets are hard to keep in a tribe, and the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. It reminds one of the truism that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. I'm thinking the decision to inform on terrorists or not is made at the sheik-level, not by individual tribe members. Crazy would be to act independently in a tribal society.

The difference in treatment of the prisoner should make Americans proud to be represented in uniform by such common decency, media-images and soundbites to the contrary. Islamic rage over trivial or non-existent insults has become an every day joke for many of us, so we are little surprised to see a little islamic rage boy emerge in police uniform. The forces trying to inflame the world with their jihad know there is little difference in results when they successfully outrage muslims globally to act locally. The mindset of hate, and the physical displays of rage we see with a non-existent koran-flushing, or with the detainment of a murderer by law enforcement, threatens violence for us all. The value of individual life and liberty is vastly cheaper in Iraq than in America, and democracy is considered by many muslims to be incompatible with islam. There will be no herd of lawyers, reporters, Hollywood producers, or support groups to the door of an Iraqi mother after her family informs the police of terrorists, only to find themselves targetted for doing so. It's crazy to think 911 in LA and Baghdad are the same.

As for the John Wayne connection, that "life imitating art" is some crazy crap right out of Hollywood. It's just a fairy tale of flickering light on a flat screen. The Hollowood-headed Left would love for America to keep believing that life is reflection of their latest subplot. Marion Robert (Michael) Morrison, aka John "Duke" Wayne, gave Americans an image for a few minutes on the wall, then gone, leaving only the emotional impact of the experience of a strong male figure of action and good character. Islamists have learned to use the same medium to create their own "John Waynes", but leaving the theatre in one piece becomes more of a problem with the muslim version. The celebrity in the muslim community of a crazy jihadist, murdering randomly for "martyr" status and to revenge "all-ah", rivals John Wayne's in middle America.

Unfortunately, The Jews slaughtered The Mouse on tv, so the muslims don't have that character to teach their children about peaceful islam. Rosie O'Donuthole and family can only do so much identifying the true terrorists of the world. The Democrat-led Congress have beat the drum of surrender till they are deaf to any other sound. To an average Iraqi in Baghdad, words from America's Democratic politicians are nails in their coffins. It's crazy to listen to these people.

The most crazy people are the one's calling for violence against the defenseless, be they murderer in detention or those who put a child in an exploding "vest of flowers". The crazy ones here at home demonize America, W, the war, the military, etc. in Congress and on tv till it is so like teenage self-mutilation - an infantile, desperate display of neediness and narcissism, till it becomes a clinically-evident personality disorder.

It's ironic to me that my 22 year old son in Fallujah is more mature, honorable, and sane than the majority of Congress. The media is not worthy to pick up my son's empty shell casings, yet he would share his last water in the Iraqi heat to see them to take their antipsychotic meds.

The Iraqi tribes need to know from ONE American government, not a gaggle of talking heads, that American forces will be there for as many decades as it takes to secure freedom for Iraq. The terrorists need to know that they will break themselves against American resolve, and that WE will show you crazy.

7/01/2007 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger R said...

Twolaneflash...nice and right thinking! (Well, at least I think so)

7/01/2007 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

It's ironic to me that my 22 year old son in Fallujah is more mature, honorable, and sane than the majority of Congress.

I have no doubt of the absolute truth of this statement. My problem, however, is that I have concluded that the Iraqi's individually, as a government, as a country, and as a civilization are not worth the time and effort of your son, nor the expense to my tax dollar.

7/01/2007 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...


When I was at the Pentagon I came to realize that the vast majority of Congressmen could not hold either enlisted or officer rank in the U.S. armed forces, because our military's standards are too high for them. And we are talking about little things, like having to balance a checkbook. As for the big things - they would most all be in Levanworth.

As for the Iraqis being "worth" our money, time, and lives - what does that have to do with anything? In WWII we did not invade Italy, Germany, and Japan based on their people being "worth" it. We did not vow to invade and then leave if we did not like the population there. We invaded and then helped to rebuild and redirect those countries because it was necessary to further our interests - interests which did not include a desire for a future source for Toyotas, Fiats, and Mercedes. So it is in Iraq. We are not there for them but for us.

7/01/2007 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

Well stated, RWE.

7/01/2007 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

It is, indeed, well-stated. But I'd rather spend the time and effort in building a fence along the Rio Grande (and maybe the Canadian border), bringing our troops back from Iraq to police the borders, and letting Iraq sink or swim on its own.

It would appear that given the two failed bombings in Great Britain this weekend, that Al-Queda is mortally wounded, and can't get it together to blow up a Coca-Cola can. I'm not at all certain we need to "bring democracy" to a part of the world that still thinks female circumcision and honor killings are hunky-dory, when all we really need to do is keep them out of our own country, and occasionally nuke them into the Stone Age when they get too snippy with their own nuclear programs.

Eventually they'll either melt-down internally from sheer embarrassment and shame, or run out of oil money, and then that'll be all she wrote. That, or we'll head out into space to colonize where they can't follow, which is OK, too.

I say this because I still haven't been able to figure out a definition of "victory" which will enable us to ever bring people like your son home. "Victory" keeps changing, and I'm not thrilled about being in Iraq for another 25 years and still reading headlines about headless bodies being found.

7/01/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Tarnsman - We have seen this type of enemy before. The name conjures up images of mass slaughter of cilivians. Nazis. They're back, with a different name this time around, but no different than their goose-stepping brethen.

Every conflict we get we get the inevitable simplistic nursery school level of analysis that our foe are "just like the Nazis" and "the war is just like WWII".

It's never on mark.

RWE _ As for the Iraqis being "worth" our money, time, and lives - what does that have to do with anything? In WWII we did not invade Italy, Germany, and Japan based on their people being "worth" it... We invaded and then helped to rebuild and redirect those countries because it was necessary to further our interests

Corect, and if it doesn't fit our interests, we owe NOTHING to the Rwandans, Conglolese, Burmese, noble Iranian freedom lovers, Haitians, Jews of Israel, poor Bosnians, or illegal Mexicans.

Elites of the NGOs and law profession immune from the risk of fighting and dying themselves can lecture all they want about our "absolute humanitarian obligation" or how we will forever "owe the Jews" for WWII suffering we don't extend to other ethnicities that have suffered terribly..
They can lecture all they want. We have no obligation to destroy our military further by simultaneous "save Darfur", "save Myanmar", "save the Congo", "Save Somalia" humanitarian ops plus invading and starting two more major wars with Syria and Iran.

The truth is, nothing will be done anywhere before the next President because no one here or abroad trusts Bush's competency or that of his dwindling band of neocon loyalists.

7/01/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger NoGenius said...


Correct me if I am wrong, but some 60 years ago evidence of brutal murderous killing fields and human ovens was top of the fold news.

Today, things like this are stuffed into Michael Yon's corner of the Internet, and most of the regular news media devotes more time and energy into things like Abu Grab.

7/01/2007 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger mouse said...

I never consider the ethics of battle without thinking on hamburger: If you can't kill a cow you shouldn't eat meat, if you can't kill an enemy in rage perhaps you won't remain free.

I do eat meat, I'm not about to go out and kill a cow. But I could if I had to. I would require of myself that I do that if I were the one designated to do the slaughter. That some animals die for the benefit of others is within the natural order, and I do not separate myself from that established order.

Similarly, it is within the natural order that men will war with one another, so what's so odd about killing a man in a rage while I would otherwise have done it anyway as a matter of policy?

Rage is sweeping, it destroys, it certainly destroys the comfort of a man who would prefer to be kind. But justice is higher than kind, and rage is justice. Justice does require conviction, if it's to be more than just violence, but the conviction in the West that certain acts require death is not strong. I often hear it said: I'm willing to die for my beliefs; but if you're unwilling to say: I will kill for my beliefs, then those beliefs are dishwater.

I'm not an advocate of rage. It's not an emotional state within which one does one's best analysis. But it certainly is not insane. It's a felt moment of violated justice, and if the concept of justice is of a high order and well developed, then the rage is of a high order and a commendable expression. At some point in any fight for survival rage is necessary. That's the way the world works, and it's sane.

This is elemental, the elemental is scary...if you think about it. I think I'll eat peanut butter tonight.

7/01/2007 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Cedarford is correct that each nation owes only it's own self-interest, but misses the larger points.

Wars, conflicts, and fights rarely stay in their own country. Even rarer now that cheap jet travel means anyone from anywhere can be someplace in the West within a day or so. To hook up with others for nefarious means.

Israel might be threatened by Iran first, but as Netanyahu wisely said, America would simply be next. It's wiser and more self-interested to fight with allies who have useful information if nothing else. Pakistan might nuke Israel first if Osama takes over (or perhaps let's just say when) but assuredly the GREAT SATAN would be second.

Iraqis may shockingly act as tribal, clan-based people, not noble purple fingered voters or Czechs in the Velvet Revolution. But so what? They can provide useful intelligence, occupy a central position in the enemy's world, and can at very little cost provide critical human knowledge of the people and places we are dealing with. Not just intel on who is related to whom, and screwed over who, over some obscure clan feud, but basic attitudes and cultural mindsets that we in the individualistic, materialist and consumerist West can never grasp.

Cedarford looks for Fortress America. There is no fortress. No retreating until the bad men go away. They made clear their demands: AMERICA must surrender to Islam, must submit or be destroyed. And it's a decentralized, distributed, tribal war of the people.

As Wretchard points out, there is no one to negotiate with. Since any group can walk away and start it's own war up again.

I'm not shocked or surprised by this carnage, and neither should anyone else be. Human beings default social organization is the TRIBE. And the Tribe is divided by people you are related to, and therefore depend on to defend you and you must defend, and everyone else who is the enemy.

The Tribes found out that the foreigners treated them like foreign tribes. Worse by far than the nation-state of America and perhaps even the quasi-Nation State of Iraq. Jihadis were from foreign tribes and so treated the Iraqis as just another foreign tribes. These massacres and barbarities are just what you can expect from tribal peoples.

Or, if you like, men on fire running into an airport terminal carrying cans of gasoline to set more people on fire, shouting Allah! Allah! Allah!

Even Civil Engineers (bin Laden), Doctors (Zawahari) and such are not immunized from tribalism.

7/01/2007 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Rosen said...


"how we will forever "owe the Jews" for WWII suffering we don't extend to other ethnicities that have suffered terribly.."

What the f*ck does this have at all to do with the topic at hand? You're more compulsive than a junkie crawling through the gutter for a fix. Not quite as insightful, though.

7/01/2007 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger R said...

Try this one on:

Islam is a neat religion for one to adopt, especially if one "feels" castrated or has a special desire (not as yet fully understood) to "protect" the women within his world, and has come to "believe" that western values are Satan's wishes!

What's a guy (little big man) to do?

I have a friend who called yesterday amazed that a "doctor" could be part of such an attack in Great Britain. I reminded him of #2 in AQ and our little experimenter on the Jews in WWII. Read him a little from Hoffer...he sighed and asked me not to tell him any more.

When the disconnected are gathered up into a group, what then? Ask the group's leaders for a clue. Real simple. (This is why many Americans demanded the corpse of Bin move!)

When I get punched in the face, I don't ponder, I react! (I know, pondering is a reaction...I'll give you just a millisecond on this point).

Here's what I want: 1)Afghanistan is to move forward by replacing the opium crops with food crops, etc. 2)Iraq secures its borders and turns internally to rid itself of those who only want fighting, killing, etc, while they send some oil to America, Britain, etc. as a gesture of gratitude for giving their country a chance at real freedom.

If I don't see some movement, definable, in these directions, I join the group that says we need to bring our troops home, our dollars home, our intelligence home, and change our political leaders while other institutions within our country go through some internal questioning and changes too.

Anybody who thinks that there are not people on this planet who would just "love" to see a few smallpox events or a nukes explode somewhere in the United States...well, those persons I intend to stay far away from, and not elect to office, any office--even dogcatcher!

Oh yea: the only thing "elite" about Iran is the skill level their beards suggest in barbering. Nowhere close to those Saudis, though. Religion of peace, my ass!

Diversity, diversity, and being non-judgemental...that's the right way to go! Ask most of our college teachers who profess to have a handle on wisdom's inner secrets!

It is possible that a society can be sick, that a culture can be corrupt, and that forces come together to destroy that society and culture...survival of the fit so to speak?

Weapons everyone! It's time to party! (You'll have to excuse Bill Clinton and his ilk...they're too smart for this kind of game. Just listen to all their reasons: God, don't you just love narcissists?)

7/02/2007 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

They can provide useful intelligence, occupy a central position in the enemy's world, and can at very little cost provide critical human knowledge...

Geez, I want to live in the world you inhabit where you think that the human demands, technology costs, and armaments budget being expended in Iraq EVERY SINGLE DAY is "very little cost". You with the Pentagon or the Senate?

7/02/2007 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Levy said...

NahnCee & Nomenklatura:

I found the eeriest part of Suite Francaise to be the appendix at the end, containing a few dozen letters from and to the Nemirovsky family.

It starts with letters of thanks to Irene's publishers for still sending them money, despite the fact that her books are now banned.

Then you have some letters from her husband saying that his wife was taken away and he doesn't know where she is or what became of her.

Then you have some letters from the husband saying that he's been jailed, but is still ok.

Then you have some letters from their maid (?) who is hiding their two daughters in a nunnery.

The last few letters are from journalists in the USA to Irene's publisher, asking to interview her for their newspaper, and replies saying that she was taken away by the Gestapo four years ago and they still don't know what happened to her.

It sends shivers up your spine to read this. It's tyranny, viewed under a microscope.

It's definitely worth reading.

7/02/2007 10:38:00 AM  

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